Jimmy Palmer made his way to where Abby Sciuto sat alone, staring into space. He hated the way she couldn't look at any of them. Not at Doctor Mallard, not at Ziva or McGee. Not even at Agent Gibbs. And most definitely not at the casket.
"He didn't suffer," he softly assured her as he awkwardly reached out as though to pat her shoulder only to pull back at the last moment, unsure of his welcome. He offered her a little smile as he gazed into her red rimmed eyes. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the tears that rolled down her cheek. The gesture only seemed to serve to make her cry harder.
He glanced around at the other people at the gathering. It had been a tough year on all of them, what with Doctor Mallard's heart attack, followed so closely by Gibbs' shooting. And then there was the tragic house fire had claimed the lives of Director Vance and his entire family that summer.
And of course who could forget poor Ziva and McGee and the carbon monoxide thing? It had certainly been a shock to everyone when they realized that Ziva had been spending her nights over at McGee's apartment! Poor Tony had been devastated! Abby, too, of course; he was glad they had found solace in each other, despite the rather harsh way it had come about. Jimmy looked at the younger couple fondly, though, breathing in a happy sigh as he saw the way they were curled around each other in a comforting embrace.
Maybe that was what Abby needed. Jimmy chewed his lip nervously as he debated that idea for a moment. Yes. Of course she needed comfort at a time like this, he decided as he sat down in the chair next to hers and scooted it closer to hers.
Jimmy hesitated a moment longer, his eyes flicking over to Ziva and McGee once again to silently study their position. He gulped nervously and then carefully eased his arm around Abby's shoulders, pulling her gently against him. She stiffened at first, but he embraced her tighter until she gave into it and let her body relax against his.
He gently urged her to rest her head on his shoulder. He closed his eyes, feeling a fluttering in his stomach as he inhaled her scent. Impulsively he leaned in and pressed his lips to the top of her head. He felt her tremble against him and his heart swelled with compassion.
It wasn't entirely true. What he'd told her about the suffering thing. Though Jimmy had conducted the autopsy himself and listed the official cause of death as 'accidental overdose of prescription medicine', he knew better. And he knew the rumblings around the office. The scuttlebutt. That Agent DiNozzo's death had been anything but an accident. Everyone knew that he'd been suffering. Everyone knew that he'd been floundering for a long time and most assumed that he had finally just given up. It had been a rough year.
"Don't cry, Abby," he whispered into her ear. "You know Tony wouldn't want you to."
Jimmy had to fight back an affectionate grin as he reconsidered his statement for a moment. It was probably true that Tony wouldn't have wanted Abby to cry, but he certainly would've been ecstatic to know how many women had turned up at his funeral, openly weeping. Even stone-hearted Delores from Human Resources had cried. Tony would've been proud.
But Abby was another story. Jimmy's smile faded. Tony really wouldn't have wanted to be the cause of Abby's tears. "He'd want you to smile." He stroked her hair comfortingly for a few moments before cupping her chin and turning her face toward his.
He flinched at the intensely angry look on her face.
He let out a small nervous chuckle as he quickly retracted his arm and got up from his chair, taking a couple steps away from her. Perhaps he'd overplayed the comfort angle.
"He would, though, you know," he stammered awkwardly, avoiding her glare. "The funeral is over, so we're supposed to be celebrating now," he explained hastily, knowing that he wasn't stating his case very well. "Not celebrating that he's dead," he quickly retracted. He rubbed his forehead, knowing that he was digging himself into a deeper hole. "Not celebrating that he's dead," he started again, as he picked up the cake knife from the buffet table and began cutting a piece of it for her. "But…" he licked his lips nervously, as he put Abby's piece on the plate and carried it over to her. "I know. It's a little bit weird celebrating birthdays and…well…this the same way, but it's sort of like how you celebrate at funerals. Well…not at the funeral, but after. The music. Dancing. Celebrating the life of…" he trailed off as he heard the infuriated noise coming from deep in Abby's throat. He gulped uneasily as he placed the cake knife he'd forgotten to set down on the plate, and then set it all down in her lap.
Jimmy winced as he watched the plate slide from her lap, spilling the cake onto the floor and shattering the plate as it struck. Yeah, he probably should have thought that through a little better. "Sorry! I can get you another or…" He trailed off as he caught her fiery glare once again. So the cake was out. He timidly sat down next to her again. "Abby, I know this is awful. I know. But we should celebrate now," he softly urged again. "You shouldn't be sad today. We're all going to be together again."
She tensed as he reached down and picked the cake knife from the floor.
He broke into a wide smile as her anger turned once again to fear as he turned toward her. "Don't be scared, Abby. This isn't how I'm going to do it. I'll make sure you don't suffer. Although, you know, I do know exactly how to cut so that you'd hardly even feel it and it'd just take a minute…" He pondered for a moment. "But Tony wouldn't like it if I ruined that porcelain skin. Oh! And I promise that I'll put you with Tony; you said you really liked the casket I picked out, didn't you? I knew you'd want one."
He looked back at the buffet table. "Do you want something to eat? I've got those little sandwiches that Tony really liked. Or…I've got some of Gibbs' bourbon. Want some of that?"
With the tape over her mouth, Abby couldn't answer except only to shake her head, her fear no longer quite as visible, though her eyes had once again begun to well with tears. Behind that, though, Jimmy was sure that he could see it; the acceptance. She was seeing what he'd seen since the day he walked into Autopsy to find Doctor Mallard slumped over in his chair.
Making it happen, of course, had been hard. It was lucky that they all trusted him so completely. Gibbs had been the first. It was one thing to plan everything, but quite another to actually pull the trigger. After that, Jimmy decided he didn't really want to do any more in such a...close up and personal way. The Vances were easier; he just had to set things in place; he didn't have to watch them go. Catching Ziva at the same time as McGee was pure unexpected luck. And then it was down to the last. Tony hadn't suspected a thing when he'd accepted Jimmy's invite for pizza and beer. Not even when he'd drifted to sleep for the last time had he realized what Jimmy had done. And Abby. Lovely Abby. She'd accepted his invitation to come to his place following the services. Of course she'd never suspected that her Caf-Pow! was drugged, or that he'd made sure everyone could attend. It had taken some finangling, of course, but being a medical examiner did have some advantages. As did knowing how to embalm bodies.
And so today it would end.
It seemed rather fitting that the last (except for him) should die in a chair, just as Doctor Mallard had. It was too bad that he'd had to use duct tape to keep her there, but...even though this was the right thing, and everything would all be okay in the end, he knew it would be hard for her to just sit there and let it happen.
He pulled the syringe from his pocket. He wouldn't be able to cover up what happened to Abby, but since he would follow soon after, that really wouldn't matter.
As he watched her breathing grow slower and shallower, he wondered who would find them. But that didn't matter, either.
What mattered was that their family would once again be complete.